Hoag Library hosts book discussion with best-selling author

Posted 22 March 2014 at 12:00 am

‘Tale for Three Counties’ offers good read for community

Photos by Sue Cook – Karen Thompson Walker stands before the audience discussing her book “The Age of Miracles” at Hoag Library in Albion.

By Sue Cook

ALBION – For the 12th year, Orleans County has participated in “A Tale for Three Counties” program, which asks the community to read the same book and join in discussions and book talks with the author. This year, Hoag Library was the host of the Orleans County talk with the author.

“Hoag is very excited to host the program,” said library assistant Susie Gaylard. “It’s a chance for people to meet a nationally known author.”

The Hoag is hosting the author discussion this time and next year it will go to Lee-Whedon in Medina. The two libraries alternate years as the location for the discussion in the county. Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties all participate in the program.

This year the chosen book was “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker. The story is of a young girl named Julia and her family during a planetary catastrophe called “the slowing.” The planet begins to lose its spin and the days and nights begin to stretch out longer and longer.

Soon there are white nights and black days as life becomes unhinged from the sun. Many families attempt to follow the government decision to remain in sync with the 24-hour clock time, while others live on real time and attempt to remain asleep during all dark periods and stay awake during light periods.

Eventually, life on the planet begins to suffer and crops become unable to cope with the drastic change. Through all of this, Julia is still living her sixth-grade year, as her family attempts to be as ordinary as they can despite the crisis.

Thompson Walker also says she is aware that a current trend in books is often the apocalypse genre of which she is a fan. “I’ve always been drawn to disaster stories for some reason. Even though they seem really dark, there’s always a strangely uplifting element.”

Thompson Walker reads a portion of the first chapter for her novel for the audience so that they can hear it the way she imagined it.

When asked if she would be a clock-timer (someone following the 24-hour schedule) or a real-timer (living by the sun), as they are called in the book, she replied, “I’d admire the real-timers, but I think I’m too practical in the end. I’d be a reluctant clock-timer.”

“I got the idea in 2004,” she said. “There was the earthquake that caused the tsunami in Indonesia.” She explained that the newspaper article she read explained that the event was so massive it changed the rotation of the Earth so that our 24-hour days had ended up with a few seconds shaved off. She said that this idea had impacted her significantly and spurred her to write.

The setting of the story is in California, which is where she grew up and was able to draw experiences from. The story’s focus on Julia’s family in California instead of a larger scale.

“I wanted a global story to feel intimate and personal,” she said to the audience.

Once her book was finished and sold to Random House, she contacted an astrophysicist to check the facts she presented in the novel to verify that it was at least plausible. She said that a grad student checked over her work and made suggestions of changes that would be more realistic to what could happen in such a situation. She went on to say that he was a fan of fiction and understood the wiggle room needed for imagination in a fiction work.

Thompson Walker said that she is working on a new book about ordinary people facing an extreme situation, which in this case is an epidemic. She likes the idea of a story reminding people of what it would be like if ordinary life were in peril.

Thompson Walker signed books after the discussion, as well as posters for the local libraries.

Thompson Walker also offered encouraging words to the young writers of our community. “Read as much as you can. Keep writing. Practice. Do years of practice and revising.”

Leslie DeLooze, librarian from Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia and Tale for Three Counties committee member, said books that are available in paperback are often chosen by the program committee because they are more inexpensive. The committee also favors recently published works with a large-print and audiobook versions as well.

“People realize the value of seeing the author and having her talk,” DeLooze said of the program. “We’re really excited to have Karen with us.”

The books are chosen by a committee made of mostly library directors, retired directors, and librarians from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. All year they read books to determine what to choose. The book must be fiction, appeal to teen and adult readers, have literary merit determined by reviews or awards, be about rural life or local history, and provide a discussion while introducing new authors to readers. To top it off, the author must come to the area and provide talks in the three counties at Genesee Community College and the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, Hoag or Lee-Whedon Library, and also in Perry.

Thompson Walker was originally contacted for the Tale program through Facebook. This is her first visit to upstate New York.

Copies of the book are available for purchase. To buy a book, check the local libraries and bookstores. For more information about the novel, click here.